Summer is usually a pretty exciting time on the farm. The crops are growing, the days are long, and there’s plenty of activity.
It’s also a great time of year to connect with agriculture, especially for kids. There’s plenty of opportunities to enjoy the fresh produce, interact with farmers, and learn more about how food is grown. Here are my top five suggestions:
1. U-pick Farms
U-pick farms are a popular attraction in many parts of the country. Farmers open up certain fields and orchards for the general public, so customers can actually pick their own fresh produce. This is a great activity for children because it gives them an opportunity to see where their favorite fruits and vegetables come from. And it’s a hands-on activity where they can help!
Try find local u-picks by just driving around the country — usually signs are clearly posted. Or ask at your local farmer’s market if they know of any u-picks nearby.
Pro tip: Try not to eat too much of the produce while still in the field. It’s a little tacky and, technically, stealing.
2. Food festivals
Every small town has a festival, and those festivals usually celebrate the area’s best produce! My hometown hosts the Glad Peach Festival, honoring our town’s gladiolus and peach crop. These smaller events are an opportunity to find unique ways to showcase and use the celebrated produce. They also present a friendly face to the community.
But don’t forget larger events, like the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven, Michigan. The spectacles are a little grander and have even more produce-inspired fun. And obviously it’s an excellent family-friendly event.
Pro tip: Stick to purchasing the fruit-inspired goodies at the festival and buy the actual fruit at a local farm.
3. Farmer’s markets
My family ran a farmer’s market for 26 years, so I’m partial to this entry on the list. But farmer’s markets are an excellent opportunity to buy local, fresh produce. And sometimes you can talk to the actual farmers who grew the food! So if you have questions, stop by and strike up a conversation. I promise: the produce at your local farm stand will taste better!
Pro tip: Farmers usually have the details on how to pick out the best produce. So be sure to ask them!
4. County Fairs
I have a distinct memory of visiting our youth fair when I was young and asking my grandpa if I could pet the cows. We’ve never had livestock on the farm, and I was fascinated by them! So take your little ones to the fair and walk through the animal barns. It will give them the opportunity to see the animals up close. And there are usually plenty of farmers and farm kids around who will talk your ear off about the animals.
Pro tip: Always ask before petting or touching the animals! There’s usually plenty of owners nearby who would be happy to oblige.
5. Schedule a farm visit
If you’re following my advice so far, you’re probably going to encounter a lot of farmers. If you’re curious and want to learn more, let them know about your interest and ask if you can come to the farm. Some operations are set up so people can check them out. Or the farmer might know somewhere you can visit. Even if it isn’t an option, most farmers will be more than happy to answer questions and discuss how they grow your food!
Pro tip: Don’t be upset if the farmer declines your request. Sometimes we can’t let people into certain areas of the farm because of food- and animal-safety reasons or regulatory or liability concerns.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.